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May 26, 2020
In this episode, Bruce Geryk interviews veteran game developer Roger Keating, co-founder of Strategic Studies Group (SSG). Roger is best known for his work on the Warlord series as well as many digital wargames. They discuss what it was like to do pathfinding before A*, how SSG worked from home before it was cool, and how to determine who is a game designer.
February 14, 2020
In this episode, Soren and Leyla Johnson interview Creative Director Michał Drozdowski and Art Director Przemysław Marszał of 11 Bit Studios, best known for their work on This War Of Mine and Frostpunk. They discuss why This War of Mine does not judge the player and why Frostpunk does.
December 18, 2019
In this episode, Soren interviews game designer Alex Hutchinson, Creative Director at Typhoon Studios and best known for his work on Spore, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Far Cry 4. They discuss how they both would have screwed up SimCity, how working at Ubisoft is like Brewster’s Millions, and what happened with Spore.
November 1, 2019
In this episode, Soren interviews game developer Adam Saltsman, who co-founded indie publisher Finji and is best known for his work on Gravity Hook, Canabalt, Hundreds, Capsule, and Overland. They discuss how Mario speed runs are the original infinite runners, why Canabalt is in 6 shades of grey, and when does Permadeath make sense for a game Games discussed: Canabalt, Captain Forever, Jetpack Joyride, Alone, Hundreds, Portico, Overland, 868-HACK, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2
October 15, 2019
In this episode, Soren interviews game developer Adam Saltsman, who co-founded indie publisher Finji and is best known for his work on Gravity Hook, Canabalt, Hundreds, Capsule, and Overland. They discuss how Cave Story showed him that he could make games on his own, why he thought he worked with the guy who invented Boggle, and his many failed attempts to join the video games industry.
August 5, 2019
In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Brendon Chung, best known for his work on Atom Zombie Smasher, Thirty Flights of Loving, and Quadrilateral Cowboy. They discuss why Xbox Live Indie Games didn’t take off, what exactly happens at the end of Atom Zombie Smasher, and how streaming game development made him work harder than ever before.
June 29, 2019
In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Brendon Chung, best known for his work on Atom Zombie Smasher, Thirty Flights of Loving, and Quadrilateral Cowboy. They discuss how to make an adventure game inside of Doom, why he won’t read text popups but will read the back of cereal boxes, and what does the ending of Gravity Bone mean.
June 5, 2019
In this episode, Soren and Leyla Johnson interview independent game developer Rami Ismail of Vlambeer, best known for his work on Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, and Nuclear Throne. They discuss why he started a company with someone he couldn’t stand, how to make games in a place without electricity, and why the world “inclusivity” can still be exclusionary.
December 31, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Clint Hocking, who started his career working on the original Splinter Cell and was also the Creative Director of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2. They discuss why games always need three months at the end, how he feels about his crunch on Chaos Theory, and how they choose Africa for Far Cry 2.
November 24, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Clint Hocking, who started his career working on the original Splinter Cell and was also the Creative Director of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2. They discuss how his early time as a Dungeon Master informs his design work, how he took a huge pay cut to join the games industry, and how the Splinter Cell team was conflicted over dynamic gameplay vs. set piece content.
October 6, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer David Sirlin, best known for his work on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Yomi, and Puzzle Strike. They discuss how many hit points are too many hit points, whether his work is post-modernist, and how to make the first move in Yomi. Also, listen to see if Soren can successfully pronounce iconoclast.
August 8, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer David Sirlin, best known for his work on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Yomi, and Puzzle Strike. They discuss why games with more mechanics are not deeper, whether fighting games should also include cake baking, and why he didn’t end up designing Street Fighter 4.
June 22, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best known for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss why Big Huge made Rise of Legends instead of Rise of Nations 2, why you shouldn’t let a company provide you with a computer, and how he cost Zynga $800K from a spreadsheet error.
May 16, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best known for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss when Brian discovered Twilight Struggle, how Alpha Centauri influenced BioShock, and whether he could have made Rise of Nations at Firaxis.
April 24, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, best know for his work on Colonization, Civilization 2, Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations. They discuss how his original dream job was to write compilers, all the bad decisions he needed to make to end up as a game designer, and his true feelings about the philosophy department at UC Berkley in the state of California.
March 12, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews independent game developer Chris Hecker, best known for his work on Spore and SpyParty. They discuss accessibility versus depth, when SpyParty suddenly became fun, and why Chris Hecker ruined Spore.
February 21, 2018
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews independent game developer Chris Hecker, best known for his work on Spore and SpyParty. They discuss why game jams are no longer necessary, why the first triangle is always the hardest, and whether Powers of Ten was a good idea for a game.
January 17, 2018
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Manveer Heir, best known for his work on the Mass Effect franchise. They discuss the sunken cost fallacy and game development, why Mass Effect 3 would be a bad first game for a new developer, and when a game designer is like a baseball player and when it’s like a trauma surgeon.
December 7, 2017
In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Tyler Sigman, best known as the designer of HOARD and Darkest Dungeon. They discuss how whether it makes sense to hide game data in the age of wikis, if Darkest Dungeon is too punishing or too forgiving, and what happened with the Corpse and Hound.
November 13, 2017
In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Tyler Sigman, best known as the designer of HOARD and Darkest Dungeon. They discuss how his game design career was almost derailed by staplers, how a weird aeronautical engineer is a normal game designer, and why his finished air racing game was never released.
October 5, 2017
In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Asher Vollmer, best known as the designer of Puzzlejuice and Threes. They discuss why paper prototypes don’t always translate well into video games, whether a game should take up 100% of your brain, and how he feels about the Threes clone 2048.
September 1, 2017
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews Margaret Robertson, Game Director at PlayDots. Margaret is known for her pioneering work at Hide & Seek and as editor-in-chief at EDGE magazine. They discuss how to make a game about death, whether a game should make you good at lying, and why making a game about dots can be rewarding.
August 11, 2017
In this episode, Soren interviews Steve Gaynor, co-founder of The Fullbright Company and best known for his work on BioShock 2, Minerva’s Den, and Gone Home. They discuss whether audio diaries need to make sense, why the Gone Home family is made up of barefoot vampires who hate showers, and why Fullbright made Tacoma.
July 21, 2017
In this episode, Soren interviews Steve Gaynor, co-founder of The Fullbright Company and best known for his work on BioShock 2, Minerva’s Den, and Gone Home. They discuss how bad Sierra adventure design could be, why he decided to make video games instead of comics, and about that time he interviewed Ken Levine and Tim Schafer for his zine.
June 16, 2017
In this episode, Soren interviews independent game designer George Fan, who is best known as the creator of Insaniquarium and Plants vs Zombies. They discuss why he learned to program instead of just focusing on art, how most Diablo monster design is a variation of kill-me-first, and why Plants vs. Zombies wasn’t Fish vs. Aliens.
May 21, 2017
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Lucas Pope, best known for the immigration officer simulation Papers Please. They discuss how Naughty Dog taught him to mercilessly cut features, why it might be a good thing if Obra Dinn is bad, and how Adam has time to do these interviews.
May 6, 2017
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews legendary game designer Sid Meier, best known for designing Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Civilization. They discuss what game Sid wishes he designed, how to determine if a prototype should be turned into a game, and why we need a Zombie civilization.
February 23, 2017
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews legendary game designer Sid Meier, best known for designing Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Civilization. They discuss why dinosaurs need to have ranged attacks, how deals go down on the SimGolf course, and if Civ games have an ideal length.
November 23, 2016
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews legendary game designer Sid Meier, best known for designing Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Civilization. They discuss how Sid’s stealth fighter was more interesting than the real one, whether XCOM violates the Covert Action rule, and when the world was ready for hexes.
October 25, 2016
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews legendary game designer Sid Meier, best known for designing Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Civilization. They discuss using the Ayatollah Khomeini as an enemy, how Strike Eagle differentiated itself from Flight Simulator, and why the torpedo doesn’t go where the player aims it in Silent Spring.
October 4, 2016
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Amy Hennig, best known for her work on the Legacy of Kain and Uncharted series. They discuss what elements from film can’t work in games, how many hours she averaged per week working on the Uncharted series, and how to capture great acting performance for video games.
September 20, 2016
In this episode, Soren Johnson interviews veteran game designer Amy Hennig, best known for her work on the Legacy of Kain and Uncharted series. They discuss what happened in 1977, how to make a platformer about Michael Jordan, and whether women are now being scared away from game development the way she was from the film industry. In true adventure game fashion, we end on a cliffhanger!
August 4, 2016
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Liz Ryerson, known for experimental games like Problem Attic. They discuss whether we should ever make players uncomfortable, why horror games have more freedom to try unconventional design, and whether Twitter is a game.
June 15, 2016
In this episode, Soren interviews Westwood Studio co-founder Louis Castle. They discuss why early video game artists were also great at Etch-a-Sketch, why Dune 2 was not Dune 1, how Boom Blox was almost Angry Birds, and why narrative games can’t end on a negative.
May 6, 2016
In this episode, Bruce Geryk interviews Soren Johnson about his new economic RTS, Offworld Trading Company. They discuss how exploring a black map is one of gaming’s greatest hits, why the hardest part of designing Offworld was ending the game, and why Early Access games shouldn’t have QA. Also, listen to hear Soren correctly pronounce timbre!
April 1, 2016
In this episode, Soren interviews game designer Ananda Gupta, best known as the co-designer of Twilight Struggle and the lead designer of XCOM: Enemy Within. They discuss why DC has no fort in For the People, whether Labyrinth's neocon design is intentional, and should Twilight Struggle use dice to resolve conflicts. They also assume quite incorrectly that Command & Conquer: Generals was released before 9/11. Who knew?!?
February 15, 2016
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews Tyriq Plummer, who is the artist, designer, and programmer behind the roguelike platformer Catacomb Kids. They discuss why a game should let you eat your severed arm, how items can be adjectives instead of verbs, and how to design a deep game when you don't see the bottom yet.
January 19, 2016
In this episode, Soren interviews Nels Anderson, who was the lead designer of the critically acclaimed Mark of the Ninja and is currently a designer/programmer at Campo Santo working on the upcoming game Firewatch. They discuss how he almost went into law enforcement, whether Mark of the Ninja actually has AI, and why designers should be able to write code.
December 21, 2015
In this episode, Bruce Geryk interviews veteran wargame designer Mark Herman, former CEO of Victory Games and best known for pioneering card-driven wargames with We The People. They discuss designing games for less than $100 per week, why he couldn't release a game because Saddam Hussein might play it, and how Magic the Gathering helped him create a new genre.
November 13, 2015
In this episode, Soren interviews Jamie Cheng, founder of Klei Entertainment which is known for the Shank series, Mark of the Ninja, Don't Starve, and Invisible, Inc. They discuss paying back the Canadian government, why Mark of the Ninja's AI needs to be dumb, why Don't Starve has no extrinsic rewards, and how free-to-play games are his white whale.
October 15, 2015
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews indie game developer Davey Wreden, who is best known for his work on The Stanley Parable and The Beginner's Guide. They discuss why he worked as a bartender while making The Stanley Parable, how they fit the "gnawing void" into the game, and why he is looking forward to getting old.
September 9, 2015
In this episode, Soren interviews game designer Chris Avellone, who is best known for his work on Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout: New Vegas, and Wasteland 2. He is currently working at inXile Entertainment on Torment: Tides of Numenera. They discuss why he owes his career to publisher desperation, how Torment reflects that players only care about themselves, the mystery of how Black Isle lost the D&D license, and why game writing is overrated.
August 5, 2015
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews indie game developer Nina Freeman, who is best known for her personal vignette games How Do You Do It?, Freshman Year, and the upcoming Cibele. She is currently working at Fullbright as a level designer on the upcoming game Tacoma. They discuss why all VR games are about sitting in chairs, how a background in poetry influences her work, and how to write about your own personal flaws in a game.
June 26, 2015
In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game designer Bruce Shelley, who is best known for his work on Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, and the Age of Empires series. He is currently working at Bonus XP on Servo, a new RTS. They discuss what the two Sids have in common, why they took disasters out of Railroad Tycoon, what game got shoved out the door to make way for Civilization, why Ensemble games always look so bright, and why he always does his research in the children's section of the library.
June 8, 2015
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Daniel Benmergui, who is best known for experimental story games like Today I Die, I Wish I Were The Moon, and the IGF-winning Storyteller. He is currently working on the Indie Fund-backed puzzle game Ernesto. They discuss why games should not be designed backwards, how to recover from the burden of success, why players have difficulty committing a murder of jealousy in Storyteller, and whether Chris Hecker hates Ernesto.
May 4, 2015
In this episode, Soren interviews Brad Muir, who is a designer/programmer at Double Fine. He was a programmer on Psychonauts, the lead designer of Brutal Legend, and the project leader on Iron Brigade. Brad is currently leading the development of Massive Chalice, a tactical strategy game now available on Steam Early Access. They discuss trying to make peace with narrative-based games, why consoles (and not tablets) are the future of MOBAs, what it's like pitching ideas to publishers, and why Brad worked at Raven for 89 days.
April 20, 2015
In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews Chelsea Howe, who is a Creative Director at EA Mobile. She is best known for her work at TinyCo, where she led the design of Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, and for her community efforts organizing the Queerness and Games Conference, the Global Game Jam in San Francisco, student workshops, and more. They discuss how DAU's and LTV's compare to Quarterback Ratings, why F2P games end up as conservative as AAA games, why mobile devs have to pay people to play their games, and if a game is worthwhile if the player isn't learning something.
March 9, 2015
In this episode, Soren interviews Daniel Cook, who is the Chief Creative Officer at Spry Fox. He is best known for his design work on games such as Triple Town, Realm of the Mad God, and Steambirds as well as for his writing on game design at lostgarden.com. They discuss the joy of making tile sets, why Lost Garden was originally an anonymous blog, whether Triple Town should be free-to-play, and why we wish we had been neighbors.
February 10, 2015
In this episode, Soren interviews Henrik Fahraeus, who is a Game Director at Paradox Interactive, where he has worked on the Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, and Hearts of Iron series. Also sitting in on the interview is Jon Shafer, lead designer of Civilization 5 and currently at work on his independent strategy game At the Gates. They discuss whether the Civ and EU games live in alternate dimension, whether provinces are better than hexes, and why it's bad to have too many sons.
January 12, 2015
In this episode, Soren interviews Frank Lantz, currently Director of the NYU Game Center. Frantz was also the co-founder of Area/Code where he led the design of Drop7. We discuss how to make sure your game gets written up in Boing Boing, why most people who like ARGs have never played one, and how to take advantage of your friend's trip to the hospital in Parking Wars.
December 11, 2014
Soren is not done with Rob yet! In the second half of the interview, they discuss the MMO that shocked everyone (including Blizzard), how to hire game designers, why they didn't make DOTA2, removing the auction house from Diablo 3, and what might come next from Rob.
October 30, 2014
Welcome to Designer Notes, a podcast about why we make games, hosted by Soren Johnson of Mohawk Games. In our first episode, Soren sits down with Rob Pardo, formerly the Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard Entertainment, to discuss his game design career, or at least as much as could fit into this first of two parts! Rob is best known for his design work on StarCraft 1 & 2, Warcraft 3, and World of Warcraft.
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